The 7th of Feburary 2009 is a day known to all Australians as Black Saturday. Temperatures of 46°C (115°F) scorched Melbourne and the state and the towns of Kinglake and Marysville burnt to the ground. 173 people are confirmed to have died as a result of the many fires that burned that day and it is considered Australia's worst bushfire disaster in history.
I didn't know how I survived through that day - it was the hottest day I'd ever been through. It was quite personal for me as well - I had been to Marysville a few years beforehand and it was a beautiful town enriched in history. My school held its Year 9 camp at Kinglake last year, and I went on it. The forests were stunning to say the least. The stories that emerged were of hope but also despair. Many homes were lost.
Several aid efforts were announced, including that of Sound Relief on the 14th of Febuary. It would be a multi-venue concert held in Melbourne at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and in Sydney at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Funds would go to the Red Cross Victorian Bushfire Appeal and the Queensland Premier's Disaster Relief Appeal. Queensland had been the victim of floods in January and Feburary.
I decided to wait until the acts were announced before I would go, to see if it would be worth forking out the money (in case tickets were expensive). The lineups were announced, and I talked things over with my mum about which we could go to. Sydney was the one we'd set on - two tickets, a ten hour roadtrip. Great acts, a nice city, and a weekend away. It'd be good.
Tickets went on sale on the 4th of March, the day before my concert in Melbourne. After several tries on the internet and the phone, I got a pair of Red Oval tickets - the ones closest to the stage. It took me fifteen minutes of happy grinning and skipping about the house like an utter maniac to calm down. Included in the line-up were Coldplay, Wolfmother, Eskimo Joe, Jet, and The Presets. All favourites, especially Eskimo Joe.
We started driving up on the morning of the 13th at 9am and arrived in the night at our hotel. Although a bit low quality as it was cheap and all we could get so short notice, it was nice enough for us to settle in well. We slept tight, knowing we'd need our energy tommorow for 11 hours of standing...
My mum and I arrived at about 10am. The line was already quite large, I didn't think I was going to end up close to the stage at all. Gates were scheduled to open at 11. We made friends with the people standing in front of us, two ladies and one of the ladies' son, talking about the acts, where we were from, that sort of thing. The son, Zach, stayed with us for a lot of the day. He was most looking forward to Coldplay, he said, and so was I. Finally the gates opened and the people streamed in.
When I walked in, the first thing I noticed was that the Sydney Cricket Ground was HUGE! It was so big, and the standing area seemed to go on for forever. I was wrong about being far away from the stage - I ended up getting quite close, 14th row if I recall correctly and could still see so not bad. Coldplay was the opening act at 12:15pm, and after seeing them just over a week before, I knew they were going to put on a great show. I took photos of the stage, the amazing view of the ground and the summer sky. Music videos of those performing were being played on the big screens on either side of the stage. Three giant inflated beach balls were released into the crowd, resulting in much fun being had trying to hit them around. Chants for Coldplay begun, and I knew it had to be soon.
"Ladies and gentlemen... please welcome our first act for the day... Coldplay!" The crowd went wild. The familiar sound of Life In Technicolor began as the quartet arrived on stage, met with very loud cheering.
Their second song was Yellow, you know, that song about the stars and the rivers and all the things you do? The lights turned golden and people exclaimed joyfully in recognition. Many giant yellow balloons were released into the crowd. With this song, you get a personal connection I think, well, I do anyway - 'it's true, look how they shine for youuu'. Chris Martin paused to pop balloons bouncing at him with his guitar. This was probably the best live performance of Yellow I've seen, each member of the band working hard to give the Sydney audience something special, and they responded, singing and dancing.
I certainly didn't expect to hear the next song, Lost! at the concert, but I did. Chris bounded about with his quirky dancing, you would know it if you've seen it - returning to the keyboard towards the end. Yellow balloons still were being thrown about and the crowd were loving it. At the end of the song, Chris thanked the crowd and told them that that day was the only day they could be claimed to be honourary Australians. Everyone seemed to agree as he started playing their hit song Clocks.
I don't remember anyone around me remaining standing through the whole performance of Clocks - they wanted to bounce instead, so bounce they did. The energy from the band spread to the audience back to band again. Great performance. Chris playfully joked about being "the 15th opening act for the BeeGees" before jumping into Viva La Vida.
The background lights changed to a red and black Australia with 'Viva' written on it in white. Cheers and chants of the memorable "whooaa-ohhh" began the song, hands were in the air and people were moving to the beat, drummed with determind force by drummer Will Champion. Well after the song had ended Chris encouraged the crowd to sing it for the Queenslanders, people in Flowerdale and to everyone at the MCG in Melbourne.
We were a bit confused as to what was happening next. It seemed to be something special, but nobody was sure what. Rumors flew about that Elton John would be performing with Coldplay near the end of the set, but nobody was certain. The rumors proved true when the beginning of You're The Voice was played. Confirmed by Chris saying with playful banter "ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, to sing the Australian national anthem, John Farnham."
John Farnham himself ran on stage, singing You're The Voice. I can't really count how many retirement tours this guy's had, but that didn't seem to matter as he burst into song, Chris, Will, guitarist Jonny Buckland and bassist Guy Berryman playing in the background, Jonny playing the riff beautifully. His usually reserved and shy demeanor doesn't stop him on guitar. Everyone around me sang along, and Chris duetted with Elton during the bridge. I don't think we'll ever see another live performance of that happening again. Elton and Coldplay left the stage and Coldplay encore chants began.
They returned for one final song, and what would be the most memorable part of Sound Relief - Fix You. Surprisingly the biggest singalong of the act was this song, loved by many, and written for Chris' wife in a time of hardship. The crowd clapped along and Chris rose from his piano after playing the two verses.
What nobody did expect was what happened next - he hopped off the stage in the other direction from me, down a lane, jumped a fence and ran across an empty space of ground, the crowd and security chasing after him, proving faster than both pursuers. People streamed after him and Chris was stuck in the mass of people as the chorus began, the rest of the band singing. On the screens the video cameras showed a curly mop of hair popping up and revealing him.
Security herded Chris back into the lane, the song seemingly ended, with him not back on stage. The exhausted smiling singer emerged and made it back to finish the end of the song, letting the crowd sing the last line. The end of their performance, and a while to wait until the next act for the charity concert.
I'm obliged to write about the other acts, so here it is. Wolfmother seemingly imploded after the success of their last album, so I was a little anxious about what they'd put out. I have to give them credit, they played solidly despite having significant sound problems that only lightly affected Coldplay. I didn't think much of the Hoodoo Gurus... the next act Little Birdy also had some issues with their keyboard being too loud during Come On Come On but they played a good set. Architecture in Helsinki had a lot of people dancing and they were good also. You Am I were definitely not my style so I didn't get much from them, the same went for Josh Pyke (I'm no country girl) but his songs were ok.
Then, the heavens opened and it rained. I lost my bud Zach after running from the rain, still looking for him. Brown hair, grey and black V-neck shirt with blue jeans was me, mum was blonde, we had a blue cooler bag and gave you water if you're still out there (I think you said you were from Macquarie?). The rain cleared for a short Marcia Hines set. Taylor Swift was next... I can't say many words for her, I'm not a fan. Eskimo Joe were brilliant - great performances, great reception. They played a good mix of new tracks and old. They ended the afternoon and Jet commenced the evening.
Jet's a fairly well-known band in Australia, they had quite a few songs rotating on the radio a few years back. They were great. They commanded large singalongs and a lot of dancing. Ominous stormclouds stalked the SCG. I'm not a fan of storms so I scrambled to shelter.
The heavens opened again. Lightning lit up the sky and thunder rumbled. Very few moved, as they knew whom was playing next. The Presets achieved huge success last year in Australia with their second album Apocalypso. The stormy weather and cold didn't shut down the electrical atmosphere of their performance. I doubt anyone would forget 50,000 people dancing and singing to tracks like Are You The One? and My People in a hurry.
My mum wanted to see Icehouse perform next, and I enjoyed them myself. The multitude of bright colorful lights looked stunning on the wet ground. I've heard a handful of Icehouse songs before, and lead singer Iva Davies has still got it.
We left after Icehouse and skipped Barry Gibb of the BeeGees fame. Where were we headed? Acer Arena, where Coldplay were playing that night. A kind taxi driver gave us some simple instructions to get there and we were off. We decided to wait at the loading dock to see if we could meet any of the band. I was certain Chris Martin would at least drop by, my mum wasn't so sure. Two fellow Coldplaying.com members showed up, one noticed who I was and introduced herself (yay).
The after-effects after standing for ten hours or so at Sound Relief started to hit as I had to stand again. Many cars zoomed by... roll on 1:40 am. A light-colored car pulls up a distance from us. Everyone who is there gets up and is curious about who this could be. The security guard announces it's Chris. Excitement and the grabbing of cameras and items to be signed ensues.
Chris gets out of the car with security guard Kelly in tow. Chris said it was autographs first, then anything else we'd like. Unfortunately the crowd bunched around in a way that meant I couldn't possibly reach him, so I walked around to the side of people with a copy of their latest album and EP, Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends and Prospekt's March respectively. He went around and the two albums got signed.
Then it was photos. I gave my camera to my mum and prepared to dive in between other people trying to get one. In I went, and asked if we could have our photo taken. "Sure" and an arm around me was the response. The moment was a blur, I vaguely remember him saying something along the lines of "look at that... classic pose", not knowing if he was talking about me or not because I had to keep looking at the camera. The photo was snapped, I walked over to my mum to have a look at how it turned out... and it was blurry, not clear at all! I knew why it happened, my mum hadn't given the camera enough time to focus (it's a bit finicky, see). I didn't get the chance for another picture, he finished with everyone quickly and said goodbye...
...But alas, I returned the next night. 1:20am, and Chris walked up the ramp with Kelly. I was a bit more nervous this time, and I shouldn't have been - he's a kind person, polite, humble and softly-spoken. Again, he did autographs first and I got my Sound Relief wristband signed. Chris announced he'd do photos with whomever stepped forward. Now, I'd gone over with my mum how to properly use the camera several times, so I expected result. We posed, the camera snapped.
The result was once again, blurred. I gave my mum a quick reprimanding line and decided to try and get a second attempt. I walked up to him and explained my predicament - none of the photos worked, could we try taking another one? He happily obliged, and the picture was taken. He watched me check the camera, and I was disappointed. Blurry again, and given another second or two, the camera would have focused and the picture fine! I turned to him, saying it didn't work. He said he'd remember it, and announced he had to go. After saying our goodbyes, he walked past Acer by himself and seemingly disappeared.
I trudged back to the car, not really fretting as much as my mum was that the pictures didn't work. One of the people on Coldplaying had snapped a clear one of us together when I was getting my Sound Relief wristband signed, so I didn't fuss and don't still.
I did have some of the greatest experiences I've had yet from the 5th and the weekend of the 14th and 15th of March. Butterfly confetti, the Rod Laver wristbands, The Age Sound Relief souvenir edition, the two Sound Relief wristbands (one signed), my Sound Relief ticket and signed copies of their latest two CDs now form the top layers of my Coldplay 2008-2009 Time Capsule, but it's not complete yet. The only physical thing it's really missing is a copy of their live album LeftRightLeftRightLeft... but I'm sure that'll be another experience in itself. Viva La Coldplay.